It’s not exaggerating to say that Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s garishly colorful 1948 melodrama The Red Shoes is one of the most influential movies ever made. Its influence is especially important because the film has been cited as a primary inspiration for a breathtaking variety of iconic 20th century artists –– everyone from Martin Scorsese to The Peanuts’ Charles M. Shulz, Gene Kelly to Andy Warhol, Bob Fosse to Maria Callas. Powell and Pressburger’s opus is loosely based on a wicked Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a beautiful but sinister pair of red dancing shoes. The directors turn the movie into a ballet insider’s snapshot of the love triangle between an earnest young dancer (Moira Shearer), her cruel, manipulative mentor and impresario (Anton Walbrook), and a handsome young composer (Marius Goring) who ultimately believes that love is more important than art.

You don’t have to be a fan of ballet to dig The Red Shoes, which is sumptuous, fast-paced, and rather ruthless in its depiction of the heroine’s plight. (Okay, not quite as ruthless as the wringer Daron Aronofsky put Natalie Portman through in 2010’s Black Swan, but these days, if you want to win an Oscar, you gotta bleed for it, baby.) This movie is not my favorite Powell-Pressburger Technicolor extravanganza. That designation belongs to Black Narcissus (1947), the torturous psychological thriller in which a convent full of nuns living on a Himalayan mountain are driven to different degrees of insanity by severe isolation, lust, and lipstick. But The Red Shoes is still a must-see, and The Kimbell Art Museum (3333 Camp Bowie Blvd) screens it for free 2pm Sun Jan 11 in the Kahn Auditorium. No registration necessary, but first come, first served.


  1. “Black Narcissus” is also my favorite Powell & Pressburger film, but I’d also recommend “I Know Where I’m Going” and “The Life and Death of Col. Blimp”, as well as the slasher flick Powell did on his own, “Peeping Tom.”